Included in the more than 2,000 page, $1.1 trillion year-end spending bill released this week is nearly $1 billion in funding for Mexico and Central America, according to Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX).
In the wake of an ongoing surge of unaccompanied minors and family units illegally entering the U.S. through the southern border and expecting to stay, Cuellar has advocated providing more assistance to Central America and Mexico to alleviate the “push” factors Democrats and the administration say are leading to the influx.
Republicans have argued, however, it is the Obama administration’s lax immigration policies that have caused the surge. The omnibus package, however, does not confront the so-called “pull” factors such as amnesty for childhood arrivals, sanctuary cities, and resettlement of certain border crossers.
According to Cuellar, the spending deal allocates more than $897 million in funding for programs in Mexico and Central America, including $750 million to implement the “Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle of Central America.”
“We continue to play defense on our goal line when it comes to the issue of illegal immigration,” Cuellar said in a statement. “I’ve repeatedly said that to stop illegal immigration here at home, we must provide strategic investment abroad. To that end, the omnibus appropriations bill includes a significant investment in Central America to assist with the fight against those elements that are causing thousands of children and families to flee their homes.”
Additionally, Cuellar said the omnibus also adds an additional 55 immigration judges to help reduce the backlog of immigration cases caused by the surge in illegal immigration and $100 million to aid Mexico with “international narcotics control and law enforcement.”
“In addition to efforts to fight illegal immigration stemming from Central America, I’ve fought for increased funding and provisions to support economic development, educational opportunities, and law enforcement in Mexico and Central America,” he said, “to include:”
-Access to a $265 million pool for a microenterprise and microfinance program to promote economic development in Mexico and Central America.
-$39 million to Mexico under the Economic Support Fund designed to promote a civil and just society.
-An expansion of and increase to US-Mexico academic exchanges at the high school, college, and post graduate level.
-Encouraging educational and cultural exchange programs with Mexico and Central and South America to enhance cross cultural understanding.
-Establishment of a working group between the United States and Mexico to help facilitate and ease commerce across the border.
-Conducting a study on what standards or protocols are needed for passenger and freight high-speed rail between the United States and Mexico to increase tourism and commerce.
-Not less than $1.5 million for International Military Education and Training with Mexico.
-$100 million to Mexico for International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement to promote safety and border security in Mexico.
-$7 million in foreign military grants to Mexico.